Tag Archive | human trafficking

Happy New Year – but not for all

(If you are interested in Lent resources, please see note at the end.)

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. What could be worse than children’s having to anticipate a year of forced labor, forced sex, forced soldiering, lack of freedom, beatings — being totally enslaved and exploited? (Horrible for adults, too, of course.)

Some Relevant Stories

‘It is very easy to trap an indigenous woman compared to a mestizo. First of all, they do not speak Spanish and secondly, as they suffer from poverty due to loss of their land and house in [regional conflicts], they need some employment urgently. So looking at their situation, we promise the parents or husband good employment with shelter for their daughter and wife and provide them with a little money telling them that after their daughter or wife starts work they will send them some money”.  words of a trafficker   [Stop Trafficking 11/17]

After racking up an exorbitant debt [Cambodia] with a loan shark, Kieu’s mother sold her 12-year-old for sex. The desperate mom secured a “certificate of virginity” from a doctor for her daughter and sold the girl to a man who raped her in a hotel for two days. After the ordeal, Kieu was sold to brothels on three occasions and finally escaped to a safe house after learning that her mom planned to send her away for a six-month prostitution stint.  [CNN 2013]

Tessa [U.S.] was sexually abused by her dad for the first time when she was 7. Her drug-addicted mom was too consumed with her own issues to get involved. When Tessa was a sophomore in high school, she met Jared, whom she didn’t know was a pimp. He showered her with gifts and dates, and often reminded her that no one else could possibly love her because she was “damaged.” Jared soon convinced Tessa to sell her body for sex and would attack her and deprive her of food if she did not meet her quota. He kept all of the money she made and forced her to tattoo his name on her neck. Tessa eventually escaped. 

“During the time I was on the street, I went to hospitals, urgent care clinics, women’s health clinics, and private doctors. No one ever asked me anything anytime I ever went to a clinic.” Lauren, survivor

Some Relevant Facts

A $32-billion-a-year industry, human trafficking is the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprise, according to the U.S. State Department. An estimated 27 million people are victims of the crime, which involves being forced to perform labor or commercial sex acts.

In the United States, an estimated 100,000 children are in the sex trade, according to ECPAT-USA, a nonprofit that fights the sexual exploitation of children.

Experts say that in Delhi alone, there are an estimated 100,000 girls as young as 12  who are trafficked as domestic workers.

“Whether because of financial desperation, drugs addiction, mental illness, or compulsion from pimps, women often have little choice but to sell their bodies for money. These are not people who can be said to be truly ‘choosing’ a risky line of business.” Supreme Court of Canada 

Some Relevant Dates 

Month of January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month.

January 1st is the World Day of Peace. Pope Francis’ theme is ‘Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in search of Peace.’ Migrating people are often targets for traffickers.

January 7th is the beginning of National Migration Week. 

January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the U.S.

February 8th is the feast day of Saint Josephine Bakhita (patron saint of those trafficked) and the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking 

Some Relevant Actions 

Keep handy the number 888 373 7888 – National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline – just in case you see anything suspicious. Trafficked persons can be found in the apparel industry, apple orchards, bars, beauty salons, brothels, citrus fields, construction, dairy farms, domestic help, fishing boats, food processing, food trucks, forced commercial sex, hotels, landscaping, lawn care, mines, motels, nail salons, nannies, pornographic production, restaurants, seasonal occupations, strip clubs, truck stops and…

Advocate for international agreements that offer refugee status to displaced people. 

Support agencies working with refugees and offering them legal protection. (Of many, I note one begun by the Society of the Holy Child Jesus: Casa Cornelia Law Center in San Diego (www.casacornelia.org). It offers pro bono legal services to victims of human and civil rights violations in the San Diego area. 

Purchase Fair Trade products, especially if they expand opportunities for displaced persons.

Pray and call attention in prayer and other ways to the connections between human trafficking and climate change, poverty, civil unrest, violence.


Note re. Lent resources: Three group resources — Laudao Si’ Reflection Resource, Creation Covenant (Species and Ecosystems), and Renewing the Face of the Earth (Air) — are available here: https://ecospiritualityresources.com/lent/

Weekend for Trafficking Victims

The last weekend in September — this year Sept. 26-27 — is International Weekend of Prayer and Fasting for Victims of Human Trafficking, be it trafficking for sex, labor (agriculture, textile, domestic, etc.), organs, or child soldiers. 2015 marks the 10th anniversary of this weekend initiated by the Salvation Army and the Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking (IAST). Anyone who believes that all life, all creation, is sacred will want to participate in this global effort of prayer and fasting to relieve this suffering endured by so many.

Although even the concept of human persons being treated as slaves — and worse — is repulsive, it occurs all over the globe, very probably in your area. Children, both boys and girls, are exploited.


2010_0825_child_trafficking_mNumbers of trafficked persons are deceptive for two reasons. For one, accurate numbers are impossible to get — traffickers are not eager to share them and police cannot find them. The other is that numbers tend to be numbing. Learning that the International Labor Organization estimates that almost 21 million people are trafficked each year, or that 4.5 million of those exploited by individuals or enterprises are victims of forced sexual exploitation can be too big to comprehend by mind or heart. (http://www.ilo.org/global/topics/forced-labour/lang–en/index.htm)

Something tangible happens when we read that “two brothers, aged 7 and 10, died in April 2015 in a fire in one of the numerous clandestine garment workshops in Flores, a Buenos Aires neighborhood, where their parents, immigrants from Bolivia, were living and working.” (http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/garment-sweatshops-in-argentina-an-open-secret/) One might not WANT to picture the sweat shops, the fire, and the protection given to exploiters by police in return for bribes, but it is POSSIBLE to do so. Both mind and heart can grasp the death of two innocents, the pain of their parents, and the injustice aggravated by police corruption.

Or that Pariyar, a poor uneducated laborer in Nepal, was tricked into selling his kidney. He needed money, was lied to about what would be removed, was offered large sums (which never came), and so he agreed. He now has a urinary problem, no way to track down the sellers, cannot afford a trip to a doctor, and worries what will happen to his two children if he dies. (http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/26/world/asia/freedom-project-nepals-organ-trail/)

One Major Cause                                                                                                    Pope Francis leaves his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 23. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (Oct. 23, 2013) See POPE-AUDIENCE Oct. 23, 2013.

In July, Pope Francis told a meeting of the world’s Mayors that the  state of the environment is directly and intimately linked to the life and wellbeing of humankind. He said huge migratory waves of peoples across the globe are triggered by environmental issues such as

• desertification,
• deforestation,
• drought, and
• floods, which leave people and entire communities without the possibility of seeking a livelihood. Thus – he said – the exodus that takes them into urban centers gives life to human trafficking which brings with it diverse forms of exploitation of women, children and vulnerable people.  

Pope Francis mentions human trafficking three times in Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, always linking this issue with climate change and other results of the  destruction of our common home.

Prayer and Fasting Weekend

The focus on September 26-27, 2015, is on prayer and fasting, two simple actions that any reader of this blog can take to improve this blight on humankind. Uniting globally on the last weekend of September, our intentional and loving prayer and fasting “can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20) But do imagine one of the many victims, and pray/fast/picture his or her release — especially if environmental destruction contributed to his or her plight. Pray and fast that this cause may be mitigated by response to Laudato Si’.

Solutions to human trafficking are many. For actions to reduce trafficking (that include prayer and a prayer service), go to https://ecospiritualityresources.com/2014/12/31/5-ways-to-reduce-human-trafficking/.

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I add very sincere thanks to Jean Schafer, sds, editor of Stop Trafficking! (www.stopenslavement.org) who generously and graciously assisted with this blog and whose monthly newsletter is always a source of valuable information.

5 Ways to Reduce Human Trafficking

• The month of January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

• Pope Francis’ January 1st World Day of Peace, 2015, message* is “Slaves No More, But Brothers and Sisters.” 

• January 11, 2015, is National Awareness Day: Human Trafficking.  

• Feb. 8, 2015, Catholics worldwide will keep a Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking.

*Pope Francis’ challenge includes recognizing the “equal dignity” of our brothers and sisters who are enslaved and exploited, and to work to end human trafficking, trade in migrants and prostitutes, slave labor, and the enslavement of women and children.

(For 2017 information, see https://ecospiritualityresources.com/2016/12/26/trafficking-ritual-2017/.)

Information, ways to help, and a prayer ritual follow. Please consider sharing this with others.

1. Know the Extent of the problem 

Types-of-human-trafficking1Trafficking in children is on the increase, according to the latest report released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The 2014 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons was released November 24, 2014, in Vienna, Austria and shows that one in three known victims of human trafficking is a child – a 5 per cent increase compared to the 2007-2010 period.

Girls make up 2 out of every 3 child victims, and together with women, account for 70 % of overall trafficking victims worldwide. A recent study from Walk Free, an anti-slavery organization, puts the number of slaves at around 36 million, which is 0.5% of the world’s population. 36 million is a little over half the population of Britain, well over the population of a number of European nations, including Greece, and just about the population of Scandinavia put together. When framed in those terms, that number starts to seem pretty terrifying — though even one person in slavery is a serious matter.

2. Know about trafficking laws. In the U.S.: HumanTraffickingDec292012

President Obama has signed into law H.R. 4980, also known as the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act. This bipartisan legislation aims to reduce child sex trafficking, increase adoptions and improve child support collections. It was introduced in the House by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI), Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Dave Reichert (R-WA), and Ranking Member Lloyd Doggett (D-TX).

The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act will encourage states to combat sex trafficking among youth in foster care, promote normalcy for foster youth, help move more children from foster care into adoptive homes or the homes of relatives, and increase the amount of child support provided to families in which one parent resides outside of the U.S. The legislation is fully funded.

3. Three Action Steps from Project IRENE: projectirene@aol.com:

• Buy Fair Trade Key Chains 

f1771b72-5e79-4b6c-be87-e88fc533253fPoverty is one of the many factors which make individuals vulnerable to trafficking.  Key chains made by women at the Regina Center in Nongkhai, Thailand provide income generating opportunities for women.  The women can stay in their villages and keep their children in school.  These are two effective strategies for reducing sex trafficking.

These key chains are $5.00 each.  The Regina Center is one of the partners of HandCrafting Justice which is a member of the Fair Trade Federation.  These key chains can be ordered at ECPAT USA.  Go to www.ecpatusa.org.  Email address is info@ecpatusa.org.  Even though buying a key chain might seem an insignificant act, ponder the impact of everyone reading this information deciding to gift others with these key chains during the holiday season.

• Encourage More Information in Libraries

Ask libraries to purchase materials related to trafficking.  Possibilities include What I Have Been Through Is Not Who I Am; Not a Choice, Not a Job; Rape is Rape; Girls Like Us; The Natashas; Trafficking in Persons Report, published annually by the U.S. Department of State; Life Interrupted.

• Purchase fair trade, sweat-shop free products (clothing, chocolate, coffee, tea, etc.). 

4. Reduce Runaways

Another way to reduce trafficking is to reduce the number of runaway boys and girls. They are prime targets for traffickers. If all the youth who run away in the United States lived in one city, it would be the 5th largest city in the country. If you notice runaway young people in your neighborhood, or anyone who shows signs of abuse or restricted living, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888.

 5. Pray, including with others

My thanks to Rose Mary Meyer, BVM, at Project IRENE (projectirene@aol.com) for the follow prayer that I have slightly adapted:

Human Trafficking Prayer 

Opening Prayer 

All: Creating and compassionate Source of Life, living and acting within each part of your cosmos, we gather to pray for an end to human trafficking, which degrades all those, created in your image, who suffer from, who profit from, and who perpetuate, this crime against humanity.  We pray for strength to continue our anti-trafficking efforts, so that all may experience the preciousness of human life.  Amen.


UnknownWe remember Sudanese St. Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947), patron for victims and survivors of  human trafficking.  She was kidnapped when she was seven years young and sold into slavery.  Her abductors gave her the Arabic name Bakhita which means “fortunate one.”  She was sold a number of times.  She met the Canossian Sisters, and was baptized and confirmed, taking the name Josephine Bakhita.  She entered the Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossia in 1893.  Canonized in October 2000, she became the first Sudanese saint.  Let us give thanks for this Sudanese woman who personally experienced being trafficked.  May she advocate with us for justice for trafficked persons!    (“The Saint of Human Trafficking,” Theresa Baldini, MM.  Maryknoll Magazine)


Pope Francis has spoken about trafficking a number of times.  image-493He reflected:  “I have always been distressed at the lot of those who are victims of human trafficking! …  Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved?  Where is the brother and sister whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labor.  Let us not look the other way.  There is greater complicity than we think.  The issue involves everyone!  This infamous network of crime is now well established in our cities, and people have blood on their hands as a result of their comfortable and silent complicity.”    (The Joy of the Gospel)

Shared Silence

Litany Against Trafficking

Alternate readers. Response:  Source of All Life, may our efforts to end human trafficking be effective.

We mourn the degradation of those who are victims of human trafficking:  Source of All Life, may our efforts to end human trafficking be effective.

We rejoice in the efforts to gain knowledge and understanding of the tragedy of human trafficking: Source of All Life . . . .

We grieve the human trafficking associated with sporting events: Source of All Life . . . .

We rejoice in the anti-trafficking training of hotel, restaurant and other personnel in geographic areas near major sporting events: Source of All Life . . . .

We grieve our failure to drink only Fair Trade coffee and to eat only Fair Trade chocolate: Source of All Life . . . .

We rejoice in consumers who are becoming more aware of and committed to purchasing Fair Trade products whose production aims to be traffick-free: Source of All Life . . . .

We grieve the lack of local anti-trafficking laws: Source of All Life . . . .

We rejoice when people advocate for anti-trafficking laws in cities, counties, states, and nations: Source of All Life . . . .

We grieve our inattention to trafficking in our local area: Source of All Life . . . .

We rejoice in those who take seriously their connection with all other human beings and make calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 888 373 7888:  Source of All Life . . . .

Reflection:  Take a few moments to try to absorb the immensity of the global, national, and local trafficking reality as well as the possibilities for actions to stop this human tragedy.

Instrumental Music and Reflection, ending with

All: In our hearts, may each of us commit to an action that is possible—prayer, education, other actions. 

Reflective Silence to choose your commitment

Commitment and Closing Prayer

All: I commit myself to fulfilling the action I have just chosen in order to show solidarity with members of the human family who are trafficked.

 Creating and compassionate Source of Life, we thank you for your love of each of us.  May we model your love by our concern for our trafficked sisters and brothers.  May they experience in their lives the power of being treasured by us and our efforts to free this world, locally and globally, of human trafficking.  This we ask in great confidence now and in the future.  Amen.

Music such as We Shall Overcome, City of God, Make Me a Channel of Your Peace